Become a “Niche Journalist”: Why You Don’t Need to Be an Expert to Start (and Grow) an Online Business

niche journalist

Image by @MrMediaTraining

Tell me if this describes you:

You have a few topics for an online business floating around in your head, and would love to pick one and start building your online empire around it. But this thought keeps coming into your head:

“I’m not an expert in topic X. Don’t I need to be an expert to enter this market?”

The short answer to this question is “Absolutely not!”

In this post I’ll describe:

1.      Why you don’t need to be an expert to start a niche website/business

2.      How you can get around the “authority” issue by becoming a “niche journalist”

3.      My own experience in launching products in markets in which I’m not an expert, and how I have leveraged the expertise of others

Why “Expertise” Shouldn’t Hold You Back from Starting Your Niche Empire

Did you know that according to a (disputed) study, 33% of high school graduates in the United States never read another book for the rest of their lives?

Here are some other startling stats from that study:

  • 42% of college graduates never read another book after college.
  • 80% of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
  • 70% of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
  • 57% of new books are not read to completion.

Surprising? Hardly. I’m sure we all know people who don’t have the time (or interest) to read, or maybe we fall into that category ourselves.

But before you shed a tear for book publishers, think about what that means: if you’re passionate about a topic, it probably means that you’ve read more about that topic than most people.

And even if you haven’t, by simply reading three books about that topic (an approach recommended by Tim Ferris), you’ll be more knowledgeable than the vast majority of people.

More importantly, as bloggers like Dave Navarro, Rob Cornish, and Tim Conley suggest, you don’t need to be an “absolute” expert in a niche to start your own website – because expertise exists on a continuum.

In other words, you might not be the most knowledgeable person in the world about yoga for seniors, but you’re more knowledgeable than some people. And those people who are interested in yoga for seniors, but are less knowledgeable than you? That’s your target audience!

The bottom line is that if you wait until you’re a world-class expert in a niche before starting your online business, you will be waiting a LONG time. Better to take action and start serving those who know less than you.

Forget Authority – Start by Being a “Niche Journalist”

So how do you start serving an audience if you’re not an established authority in a niche? Become a niche journalist!

Here’s my definition of a “niche journalist”:

A person who collects and disseminates information about a topic that he/she feels passionate about, by gathering the best content on the Web and in books, and by interviewing experts.

Like a conventional journalist, a niche journalist acts as a reporter on their topic, researching facts, interviewing credible sources of information, and writing about it in their column (which, for a niche journalist, is a blog).

Unlike traditional journalists, however, niche journalists have multiple streams of income through their ever-growing portfolio of websites.

Their income comes from advertising links placed on their sites (e.g. Google AdSense), and information products that they sell (both affiliate products, and products that they have created after listening carefully to the needs of their niche audience).

How the “80/20 Rule” Relates to Niche Journalism

I’ll describe how I’ve used niche journalism to build my online business in a moment, but first I want to ask: have you ever heard of the “80/20 rule”?

It’s a pretty simple concept: in the early 1900s an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto made an intriguing observation: 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas. (Don’t ask me how he discovered that. I guess Italian economists had a lot of time on their hands in the early 1900s.)

The “80/20” rule (also called the Pareto Principle) has since become a rule of thumb, and applied to many areas of life: 80% of results are usually achieved through 20% of our activities; 80% of a firm’s sales come from 20% of its customers; etc.

So what does that have to do with niche journalism? Simply put, it means that by being a niche journalist, you can leverage the knowledge of others to rapidly expand your online business. By focusing 20% of your efforts on curating the knowledge of experts, practitioners, “survivors”, and others, you can have a disproportionately larger impact on your online business.

How I’ve Used Niche Journalism to Leverage the Expertise of Others

As I’ve mentioned in other places (like my posts on the Clickbank blog), early in my online life I developed an information product for farmers, and more recently have focused on the niche audience of overweight, middle-aged males. I chose the latter niche audience because it has a large range of health problems, and as the Baby Boomer bulge gets older, this audience will grow even larger in size.

Now, I’ve developed a number of health-related information products for this niche, but I’m neither a medical professional, nor am I even a middle-aged male!

(I’m 42, which to me is technically “middle aged”, because it is – I hope – the mid-point of how long I’m going to live. But for some reason many definitions of middle-age start from 45 years old. Anyhoo…)

Despite not being a member of my target niche audience (nor an expert on their problems), I’ve still managed to sell hundreds of thousands of dollars of info products to that target this group.


By finding out the problems that overweight, middle-aged men have, and acting as a journalist to track down solutions to those problems.

In the process of tracking down solutions, I’ve done these things (among others):

  • Interviewed experts
  • Interviewed “survivors”
  • Snooped around blogs and online forums

(I should note that I’ve also outsourced these tasks – and at a very reasonable price, too!)

This approach has allowed me to grow a thriving online business that has multiple income streams. And I’ve achieved it through a simple formula:

Niche research + niche journalism = nice profits!

But I’m not the only one who follows this formula. Here are a few examples of other online businesses that are thriving by using it:, a blog on how to make money online. This is a great example of niche journalism, as the blog’s owner (Michael Dunlop) freely admits that he knew nothing about the topic when started.

But he managed to build a large following by interviewing experts in the field of online business. In the process, his knowledge of, and authority in, that field has grown substantially.

On other popular blogs like Entrepreneur’s Journey and Smart Passive Income there are podcasts in which the blogger interviews experts on a range of topics related to internet marketing. This has two benefits:

  1. The interviewer gains a lot of knowledge from the person they’re interviewing
  2. The interviewer also becomes thought of as an expert-by-association, simply by doing the interview!

How YOU Can Become a Niche Journalist

Before you can become a niche journalist, you first have to find a niche that is both profitable AND fun, of course.

But once you’ve settled on a niche, there are MANY ways you can “borrow” the expertise necessary to create information products, content for your website, etc. Here are some ideas to get you started (I’ve personally used all of these):

  • Interview “experts” (university professors, consultants, and/or people with decades of experience)
  • Interview “survivors” (i.e. people who have overcome some ordeal and have lessons to share)
  • Partner with experts
  • Have content written for you by experts
  • License content/products from experts
  • Collect and summarize content yourself (as one example, this approach has led Peep Laja from ConversionXL to quickly be seen as an expert in his field and build a million dollar consulting business)

Summing Up

In this post I’ve tried to dispel the myth that you have to be an “expert” or “authority” in order to start (and grow) an online business.

From my own experience, and the experience of many other Internet marketers, it’s not necessary to be an expert to serve an audience. People will gladly buy from you, as long as you clearly understand their needs, and put on your niche journalist hat to track down the solutions that will meet those needs.

Do you have a good story involving niche journalism? If so, please leave a comment below.

Postscript: many thanks to Dave for inspiring this post, and the concept of the “niche journalist”. In a recent email, he asked how to approach a niche that he is interested in, but doesn’t feel qualified to blog about.

This post was updated on September 16th, 2014.

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  1. says

    I like your approach to being an “Expert”.It is certainly one that I have not thought of as I too would like to enter areas that I feel I know little about.This will definitely put a new light on things for me.How does the saying go, an expert is someone that knows one more thing than you do .

    • moe says

      Good point, Dave. I really like Dave Navarro’s idea of an “expertise continuum”. If you think about it, most of what we learn is not from true world-class experts. They’re usually people who are simply more knowledgeable about a topic than we are.


  2. says

    This is a lift to many people like me handycaped by expert knowlegde barrier to niche entry. I know of some profitable niches but scared to enter because of expert knowledge entry barrier.
    Your blogpost on this subject has open up a new dimention in internet marketing. The lack of Expert knowledge of a product(s) /service is not a barrier or a handicap rather it is opportunity

    • moe says

      Nosa, here’s the most important part of your comment (in my opinion): “the lack of expert knowledge of a product(s)/service is not a barrier or a handicap rather it is an opportunity”.

      Well said. I would go further and say that lack of knowledge of an audience is no barrier; rather, it is an opportunity – because it will keep MANY people from entering a market. This presents an opportunity for those of us who are willing to act as niche journalists, by learning our audience’s needs, and then going out and finding the solution(s) to meet those needs.

      Thanks for your comment!


  3. Michèle says

    Wow! Am I freaking dreaming? Why didn’t you write this when I wanted into the industry 10+ years ago???? Lol. I know, I know, everything in due time…

    This is revolutionary, my friend. Forgive me if my praise sounds overly effusive, but this is what has had me going in circles for the longest time. The selection of a niche of which I have expert knowledge has been the bane of my IM existence. I am a generalist by nature, so your philosophy is music to my ears!

    So that’s it. I’m cancelling subscriptions to all the “other guys” that plague my inbox. You now occupy space in my Priority Inbox (gotta love gmail)!

    Keep it up, you are changing perceptions…lives!!
    Your fellow Canuck,

    P.S. My daughter is intrigued by your stats on reading. She is now convinced that she will have an edge if she hits the books harder (!!!!!!), lol, woohoo! Many thanks!

    • moe says

      Ha! I love your comments, Michèle.

      A lot of us in internet marketing are “generalists by nature”, I think. If you haven’t already heard of him, check out James Shramko. He proudly claims to be a generalist, and has built a substantial online business in the past few years, largely through leveraging the time and skills of others.


  4. Steve says

    Excellent post Moe! Becoming an “expert” is something I’ve personally struggled with recently as well as I start to make my first information product.

    A resource that might be useful are sites like where you, the niche journalist, can post requests for interviews or questions, and experts will respond.


    • moe says

      Thanks for your feedback, Steve! looks like a pretty interesting resource. I’ll check it out.

      And good luck with your first info product. Given your experience in IM, I’m sure it’ll be a smashing success.


  5. Chelo says

    Hi Moe
    I have a basic question as a IM newbie;

    How can I interview experts who are far away from my location? Those who probably are very busy people?, and plus, who know me in order to say: OH YEA! this is Chelo, let me give him an interview? I´m paraphrasing ofcourse!!
    I have no idea how to start as a nich journalist!

    THANK YOU Moe again and again for all your great help!!!


    • Moe says

      @Chelo – great question. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

      (1) Distance from experts doesn’t really make a difference (at least in my experience). People are usually happy to conduct an interview by phone, or even by email.

      (2) It might be easier (and more effective) for you to hire someone to find experts to interview, and then to do the interviews for you. That’s what I did for my farming product. I advertised on looking for someone to do two things: find a handful of farmers to interview, and then actually interview them. The lady I selected to do that work is an agricultural journalist. She did a great job, at a very reasonable price.

      A final word: you might think that experts won’t want to speak with you, because they haven’t heard of you. Yes, SOME experts will be like this – but in my experience their will be plenty of others who are willing to give you an hour or two of their time, if you explain your project clearly to them, and if your project relates to their interests.

      Keep in mind that experts are usually passionate about their topic, and are more than happy to talk about it. Just make sure to approach a few experts for an interview (not just one). That way, you’ll increase your chances of landing an interview.

      Hope that helps,


  6. Mayo Best says

    Don’t have a website yet but I plan to have it soon. I really appreciate you lifting my confidence to just go and be the journalist that I believe I can be. Thank you for the words of confidence. I have wanted to become an Internet Marketer for sometime now but just don’t know where to start.

    Thanks for all the Free information. Very Encourging.


  7. Duy Nguyen says

    Hi Moe!

    I’ve just finished reading your great report “finding a niche – it doesn’t have to be a bitch”, and some of your blog posts. And I have only ONE word to say about you and this blog:


    Especially this blog post, it dispels the largest barrier in my mind that says I have to be a “real expert” to talk about topic X. The “niche journalist” concept is plain awesome, it shows me that only a small shift in mind can make a drastic change in outside world!

    I know I still have plenty of things to do, but this is definitely a real kick-start.

    Thank you so much!

    P.S: I don’t believe in coincidence! I know I’m here talking to you because I’ve been searching on the Web for a long time (is 2 months a long time?) on how to build a profitable online business, and you showed up as a result 😀

    • Moe says

      Thanks Duy! I love enthusiastic comments, and yours certainly fits the bill!

      All the best, and see you around the blog,



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